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P.S.R. Op-Ed

Nebraska’s Fire Runs Hot

Blaming the officiating is a start, even though it’s an unsatisfying conversation. Yes, a few calls didn’t go Nebraska’s way last night, though it’s hard to say whether one or two fewer flags would have meant the difference in its 9-6 loss at Texas A&M. Now, five or six fewer flags? Well, there’s a point where you do have to wonder why the nation’s ninth-most penalized team is drawing only a pair of flags all evening — this thought does enter your mind. Nebraska’s 16 penalties, on the other hand? Again, there’s a point where the Cornhuskers need to acknowledge the fact that there were a few bad calls, but the onus for such a sloppy performance falls right in their own lap.

I’m not providing an out for this officiating crew, which did an amazingly poor job throughout the evening. In fact, the best call this team made all evening was a flag they picked up: a pass interference call, one that would have given Nebraska a first down well inside the A&M red zone, was correctly ruled as good coverage.

But blame away, Nebraska, if it makes you feel better. It might. Yet it shouldn’t. The Cornhuskers have far bigger things to worry about, such as the demeanor of a coach — and his top assistant — that remains this team’s greatest asset and biggest weakness. Nebraska’s fire runs hot, to be sure, but it comes at the cost of discipline, as we saw last night.

A nice time lapse photography project: Bo Pelini’s face — and veins — throughout the game, beginning at kickoff and running through a Taylor Martinez incompletion that ended the game. Red, redder, reddest. My take: Nebraska’s already fragile hold on its emotions was lost once Pelini blew his gasket.

This isn’t that hard a leap to take, nor am I suggesting anything new. Never before, however, has Pelini’s — and his brother Carl’s — lack of sideline¬†etiquette draw so much attention, nor cost his team so much. I’m not suggesting that Pelini’s vitriol aimed at the officiating crew wasn’t justified, at least somewhat, or that his constant attacks led the crew to flag Nebraska an additional two, three, four times.

The Cornhuskers take their cue from Pelini — every team takes its cue from the head coach. It might be said that in 2010, Texas has become too much like Mack Brown: a little too nice, not physical enough, a little too clean. Nebraska is no different. This anger, this us-against-the-world mentality that has pervaded the program since last season’s Big 12 title game has gotten the Cornhuskers this far; last night, the same anger took over. We saw the results.

In this instance, Nebraska needed to calm down; it needed its coach, Pelini, to calm down. He didn’t. As a result, the team played tight. Now, the big question: was Pelini’s anger justified?

Of course. At least to a degree. A roughing the passer call — it might have been a late hit — was ludicrous. An early flag, as well as an ensuing unsportsmanlike penalty, came as a result of some extracurricular goings-on following a fumble. The official who threw the flag against Nebraska’s Ben Cotton — the sophomore tight end kicked out, like a horse, at an A&M player — missed the gouging given to Cotton by that same player.

The officials were bad. Pelini was just as bad — though not worse, I should add. His brother Carl, however, if this video tells the whole story, is on a whole other level: there’s never an excuse to storm after a photographer after the game, if that’s what occurred. I don’t know if that’s what happened, to be fair. It seems, from seeing the video, that Pelini didn’t want to be caught making a comment or gesture towards an A&M fan, coach or player.

He went for the camera, and according to the photographer, grabbed the camera and tried to rip it loose before breaking off the eye piece and tossing it into the crowd. If this did occur — and it might be overblown — it’s simply another instance of Nebraska’s fire, the determination that makes this team so tough, getting the best of the Cornhuskers once again.

Nebraska’s a great team. Pelini is a wonderful coach, perhaps the finest defensive mind in the country. The Cornhuskers will be competitive — at least — as long as he leads the program. However, I’m not sure if Nebraska will ever return to the top of college football unless it comes to grips with — and controls — the anger that bubbles forth with the slightest provocation.

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. bfahey says:

    Well said, Paul. Your last paragraph perfectly articulates the crossroad this program is facing. Mature and grow into a more complete, consistent program or plateau as a fiery, talented but undisciplined football team. I think it could be the difference between resembling an always contending Ohio St. (a program NU would be smart to model) or a stuck-in-neutral Miami.

  2. chris says:

    The photographer in question, Brandon Jones, is the founder/owner of texags.com, an outlet that does legit reporting about Aggie athletics. His account can almost certainly be trusted.

    Paul: Thanks for the update. I have no reason to doubt that his account is legitimate. All I have to go on, not having spoken with the photographer in question, is what the video shows. It’s clear that Pelini went after the camera, though as you can see, the video ends before we see anything more than a scuffle. Again, knowing TexAgs, there’s no reason to doubt at all that the event occurred just as Brandon Jones tells it.

  3. Joel D says:

    I’ve been a Husker fan for years (so I’m biased, of course), but your treatment of last night’s game sounds pretty fair. [I listen faithfully to the Huskers GameDay podcasts, and my favorite shows are when you are on. That's how I found your website, too.] I agree with you that the Pelini Bros. are amazing coaches but need to be more disciplined, and it’s disciplined teams that win, not just fiery ones. I was glad that Chancellor Perlman spoke up saying that the issue would be addressed with Coach Bo. For the record, I don’t have any reason to think that Coach Bo will learn to control himself as time goes on. He’s already much better than his first season. This is his first stint as a head coach on any level, and he took a high-pressure job that carries a lot of expectations. I’m from Nebraska, and I know what the fans and the school expect.

    I don’t know where to find the official stats, but I’ve read online that none of the last five teams that Nebraska has played have been called for holding. There’s a couple other weird statistics as well, something like Nebraska’s opponents have been the least flagged team in the Big 12 every week (or something like that). I’m not one to buy into conspiracy theories, but as a Nebraska fan, it’s really hard not to be suspicious of the Big 12 after last night’s game.

    It was a tough loss, but Nebraska’s season is far from ruined. We’ll see how the team responds next week. I expect they’ll do very well, as Bo’s teams always have after a tough loss.

    Love your site. Keep it up, man!
    Joel

  4. Joel D says:

    Oops, I mis-typed a word in the earlier post. I meant to say that I don’t have any reason to DOUBT that Coach Bo will learn to control himself as time goes on.

  5. Kris says:

    As an Aggie grad and now an Aggie mom, I am biased, of course. As usual, I agree with the account you have given and love your site because I you do a great job presenting IMPARTIAL analysis – something lacking most everywhere else.

    I was at the game, AND have watched the dvr repeat (what can I say? Ags have to be jazzed about our football these days!) While the officiating was not great – roughing the passer call was the most egregious – there were plenty of legit penalties (procedure problems, etc) dropped passes, and interceptions to be the difference in this closely fought match, even if the refs had been perfect.

    The Ags may have had some favor shown (I’m not going near the conspiracy theories…) but we TOO have been on the other side of the situation. Case in point: we had FOUR TOUCHDOWNS called back in our road game against Baylor! There were also calls that stunk to high heaven in our victory at home (!) against Oklahoma. And, no one can convince me that Von Miller hasn’t been held in just about every game of the season…including THIS one, but never a call. Thankfully, our coaches don’t act like psycho freaks, however – maybe because we won the games – but I think it more likely that…..our coaches are NOT psycho freaks!

    Saturday’s game was a GREAT night of amazing defense by both teams in an atmosphere that not even HDTV can accurately depict….Kyle Field and the record-setting crowd were AMAZING. Our guys, especially the seniors, made memories for all of us to hang onto for a long, long time. Von Miller and Michael Hodges were tackling machines and Jerrod Johnson finished at home with the grace and dignity few young men could muster as he continues to be Ryan Tannehill’s greatest support. I hope that “story” gets out through all the “noise” of the Pelini Bros. side show! Fortunately, the 150-ish recruits rumored to have been at the game (gee, I HOPE that’s true!) saw the Aggie team, the 12th Man, Kyle Field, and the Aggie coaching staff in very fine form.

    By the way, the antics of the Pelini Bros. also does a great disservice to the VERY nice Nebraska fans sitting near us at the game. They were great fans in every way and fun to watch a great game with. Of course they were irked at the calls that weren’t good, but I’m guessing they were very disturbed by the video and news stories about the actions of their coaches. Like I said…they were nice folks!

    Thanks for doing a great job -glad to have found your site this season.
    Gig ‘em!

  6. Burnt Orange says:

    Speaking of grace and dignity, I note that the Nebraska chancellor promptly reprimanded Coach Pelini who apologized for his outbursts. I also noticed that Coach Sherman announced this afternoon that Tony Jerod-Eddie will play against Texas. Jerod- Eddie is the Aggie defensive lineman, # 93 ,that “gouged” Ben Cotton. “Gouging” does not begin to describe what took place in that pile. Paul is way too polite to accurately describe what Jerod – Eddie did to Cotton’s privates. This was a filthy, deliberate act by the Aggie player. Since Sherman would not step up and do the right thing and suspend Jerod-Eddie, perhaps the conference office will do so – after all, the conference suspended a Nebraska player for leveling an OSU player on what most thought was a clean hit. If that merits a one game suspension, what does Jerod – Eddie deserve ? Frankly, I want him to play against Texas, but a multi game suspension next season for the junior is in order.

  7. Ace says:

    Wow do Cornhusker fans whine. Go back and watch the MU vs NU game. NU got away with three pass inter. calls and a late hit(helmet to helmet) on Gabbert. When you are at home you get the calls. NU is one of the most penalized teams in college football. Last year they were in the bottom 20 in Div 1 football in penalized yards. So what let me guess NU fans the refs were out to get you last year as well? The entire big 12 is happy you guys are leaving. Maybe now when you play against lesser opp. you guys can get back to the top of the mountain.

  8. Burnt Orange says:

    At his press conference Monday, Bo Pelini was asked about his brother’s assault of the Aggie cameraman. He said his brother was trying to pull a Nebraska fan out of the crowd – ” Apparently he went through the camera to get [to the player] … that’s what happened and I talked to the player that was involved.”

    Now that a series of still photos clearly shows no Nebraska player within 30 feet of the incident, Carl Pelini has apologized and indicated his brother was not prepared for the question Monday and did not have all of the facts. Does anyone really believe that they were not expecting and prepared for a question about the incident at Monday’s press conference ? What about the player Bo talked to “that was involved.”

    Best case for Bo – unbeknownst to him, Carl made up the cover story and took some player along for the ride. It will be interesting to see how the Nebraska media respond to this one. I believe the biggest issue remains what was Pelini screaming to Martinez. The “we’re not going into that but it had nothing to do with the injury” explanation looks more and more suspicious in light of the the deception detailed above. How would Pelini ripping a player over an injury go over in the post Mangino/Leach world in which we live?

    I am always ready to accept an apology since I make so many myself, but to mislead while at the same time apologizing? I am a fan of Bo Pelini as a coach and one of the Texas fans who is sick over the fact that the storied Cornhusker program is going to the Big 10. However, Carl has got to go and I sincerely hope Bo’s explanation of the cameraman incident was the only deception at the Monday press conference.

  9. Burnt Orange says:

    Carl was trying to pull a Nebraska player not fan out of the crowd per Bo – I only read it three times before posting it and still messed up.

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